A Moms on Call Baby: Breast, Bottle or Both?

8 moms and 16 kids, with 4 more on the way! In the latest post of this series, Morgan surveys an expert mom panel about their experiences with feeding during the first year.

Regardless of how you do it, the first few months of a baby’s life revolve around feeding. There are multiple ways to feed your baby — exclusively breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding, formula feeding or any combination of these. And there is no shortage of information (or opinions) about each option!

The most important thing you need to know about feeding your baby is that it does not matter how you feed your baby. What matters are the hearts and hands doing the feeding.  And the well-being of those hearts and hands is just as important as the baby’s!

I have personally used every feeding method with our two existing children and, as we get ready to welcome our third child, feeding is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. It’s also one of the biggest topics we here at Moms on Call cover! So, who better to answer questions about what really happens feeding-wise in those first few months than a panel of moms who have been there and done it…sixteen times?!

Introducing the Expert Mom Panel

When I got married, I hit the jackpot.  Not only with my husband, but with the six sisters-in-law that I gained!  My luck grew when my little brother married one of my favorite people on the planet, blessing me with SEVEN incredible sisters in law.  Between the eight of us, we have 16 kids ranging from 4 months to 13 years old, with 4 more babies on the way.

Though we are all related in some form or fashion, we span the full spectrum of differences for birthing, feeding and raising kids.

What’s one thing that we all have in common?  We all fed our babies and lived to tell about it! And guess what? Each of those kids is thriving and you would never know which got formula, bottles and/or breast milk during the first year!

A HUGE thank you to my incredible sisters-in-law for taking the time to share about their experiences and expertise! My hope is that this information will help to provide other moms with clarity, ideas and reassurance that you’ve got this and are doing a great job!

P.S. My 35 week pregnancy update is at the end for those following along with my journey! Don’t forget to check out the other blog posts in this series too!

The Survey: Breast, Bottle or Both?!

How many of your kids did you breastfeed for any amount of time?

Everyone did at least attempt to breastfeed with each child.  It did not work out in all cases!

If you breastfed, how long did you breastfeed?

0 months to 15 months.

Did you run into any breastfeeding challenges?

80% struggled with breastfeeding.

What challenges did you encounter while breastfeeding?

  • “What was best for my kid and what was best for me didn’t always line up. My “plan” all three times didn’t pan out the way I thought it would.
  • “He refused one side at first for a long time, and then took to it eventually, but my supply was always different on each side. I also have high lipase milk so it didn’t store well and tasted sour after ~12 hours refrigerated, so he eventually wouldn’t take bottles.”
  • “With my first, I had a really low supply. He weighed 10.1 pounds when he was 3 months old and still 10.1 pounds at 4 months. We started supplementing with formula at 4 months old. Then I got mastitis and multiple clogged ducts and my supply completely dried up around 6 months. My second nursed much easier than my first, but he was diagnosed with a milk allergy around 3 months old. I had a pretty low supply with him also and many clogged ducts. At around 6 months, my supply started to get really low and for the mental health of us all I switched to formula!
  • “My oldest had a tongue & lip tie as well as reflux. Because of the reflux, I avoided dairy for a little while to see if that helped. I also struggled with a forceful letdown and an oversupply with both girls. I know the oversupply is a good problem to have, but it’s really challenging.”
  • “I was a hot mess express while nursing my oldest. My stress turned into his stress and both of us were miserable. But, my supply was great, so I felt guilty not giving him breastmilk and pumped exclusively until he was 7 months old. While it sounds miserable, I actually didn’t mind the efficiency and it worked really well when I went back to work! My second had both tongue and lip ties and was a hungry little guy. Unfortunately, my supply was terrible that time around and he was never full. So, I breastfed/pumped and supplemented with formula.  Once I was not producing at least half of his daily intake, we switched to formula entirely.

All breastfeeding, all bottle feeding or a combination of the two?

100% used a combination of breast and bottle feeding!

When did you first introduce a bottle?

The majority of these babies got bottles in the first few days, with the latest introduction being at 3-4 weeks.

How often did you use a bottle?

This answer varied the most and ranged from once per day to every feeding!

All breast milk, all formula or a combination of the two?

With the exception of one baby who exclusively had breastmilk for the first 12 months, the other 15 babies all got a combination of breast milk and formula at some point, with some eventually moving to only formula.

Any tricks or gadgets that made formula-feeding easier?

  • “I loved having a travel formula container with pre-measured formula to make bottles easily on the go.”
  • “I wish I had invested in the Baby Brezza.”
  • “I premade formula in a pitcher the day before!”
  • “For on the go, we heated water for bottles beforehand and brought it with us in a stainless steel water bottle. This made mixing formula a piece of cake while we were out and didn’t leave us scrambling for a way to warm the bottle.”

Any game changing tips, techniques or products for breastfeeding?

  • “Sticking to a routine was helpful. Also, undressing the babies and using a wet washcloth to keep them awake.”
  • “The football hold was great at first with a C-section. I would always get him naked and blow air on his back or tickle his feet to keep him awake. I never figured out any game changers really though, he made it pretty easy on me, thankfully.”
  • Haakaa for catching milk, pumping right before bed and as soon as I woke in the morning.”
  • “I used the Haakaa to catch a couple of ounces before breastfeeding when I was really full so I didn’t drown the babies. It helped me build a frozen stash too! I couldn’t use the Haakaa with suction though – never figured that out!”
  • “I love Legendairy Milk supplements to help with supply. Pumping an hour before the baby woke up was when I pumped the most.”
  • Haakaa!! I got at least 2 extra ounces every feeding.”

Why did you stop breastfeeding?

  • “Different reasons. One being that it was too challenging while working. Another was that my child stopped gaining weight. And then one kid was forced to stop, but would have kept breastfeeding forever.”
  • “I was pregnant and had no interest in tandem feeding a toddler & newborn!!”
  • “My supply was too low.”
  • “Baby went on nursing strike and never ever returned.”
  • “With my first, I was exclusively pumping and had a lot of back-to-back work and personal trips where it was just going to be too hard to keep up, so I stopped. With my second, I stopped once I couldn’t produce half of what he needed.”

How did you stop breastfeeding?

  • “Weaned slowly to just one night feeding and then dropped completely.”
  • “Slowly weaned at first to morning and night only, and then he gradually lost interest. So, we finally cut it off cold turkey. Dad did wake up and bedtime feedings for a week to get over that last hump.”
  • “Slowly for both kids.”
  • “I had set a goal of 6 months. Once I hit that, I started to wean gradually from pumping over a couple of weeks.”
  • “I was exclusively pumping, so I reduced pumping sessions gradually over about 2 weeks.”

How did you feel about pumping?

  • “Not my favorite thing at all.”
  • “Meh. Didn’t hate it but didn’t love it.”
  • “I hate it!”
  • “It was a means to an end. A labor of love.”
  • “Hated it but still did it all the time 😂.”
  • “Love the efficiency and ability to store extra milk.”
  • “Despite being convinced that my pump was taunting me, I loved the efficiency! Having mandatory 20-30 minute breaks throughout the day at work wasn’t so bad either. Although, there were definitely a few conference calls during which people wondered whether someone was running on a treadmill or standing next to a washing machine!”

Anything you tried that definitely did not work?!

“Stressing about it” was the most popular answer!

If you have multiple children, how did your feeding experiences with each compare?

Everyone had completely different experiences with each child!

How did breastfeeding compare to your pre-kid expectations?

Only 1 mom felt completely prepared!

Did you take any feeding classes before the baby was here?

80% of the moms did not take any classes. Of the few who did take a class, reactions were mixed about whether it was actually helpful.

Anything you wish you could go back and tell yourself?

  • You are doing your best and doing a great job. Don’t stress.
  • You do not have to have a month’s supply of milk in the fridge. I pumped way more than I needed, but got into a routine that I did not feel like I could stop because it might change my supply.”
  • “I wish I had told myself that it is okay to not breastfeed if formula is what is best for my child. I felt like such a failure when he wasn’t gaining weight and I had to start supplementing. But seriously, fed is best!
  • “Someone told me to expect some feedings to be hard and there will be no reason at all. And to remember that doesn’t reflect on me or how I was doing it. That was super helpful to hear.”
  • “Don’t stress about timing & separating feedings so much in the first week or two. Take the time to learn baby’s cues and figure each other out before implementing too strict of a schedule. And chill out about whether he’s getting enough! Gaining weight + satisfied/playing + sleeping ok = he’s fine, no matter how long/short a feeding is or full/empty you feel after. Also, take care of your upper back & neck, and find a position that’s comfortable for you!
  • “Don’t put pressure on yourself to fulfill whatever expectation you had about what breastfeeding would be like. Find a way to feed your baby that works best for you and your family – breastfeeding or not.

Morgan’s 35 Week Pregnancy Update

28 days to go.  O-M-G. The nursery is full of boxes, clothes have not been washed and my to-do list is a mile long. Rewind to baby #1 and all bottles were sterilized, clothes had been washed (and perfectly organized), the car seat was installed and the nursery was picture-perfect…two months in advance. I’m shockingly okay with the current state of chaos though, and that is most definitely not my typical M.O.! Maybe the past year of chaos in the world, the chaos in my own house with two toddlers and/or this being our third child have calmed me!

Baby Girl is wedged so far up in my rib cage that they aren’t able to see all of her on the ultrasound. But everything they can see looks great! That said, I’m quite uncomfortable and using an ice pack on my ribs at night is the only thing I have found to help. On the flipside, her being so high means that I don’t have a lot of pelvic pressure or pain, so I’ll take what I can get! Her abdomen is still measuring small compared to the rest of her, but it is growing at a normal rate, so the doctors are not concerned. I also have a small placental lake, essentially a varicose vein in my placenta, which the doctors are watching but, again, have no concerns about.

Two weeks ago, I broke Rule #1, not drinking enough water, and felt like I was having contractions. Thankfully, some time off my feet and lots of water helped!  (PSA: Drink water! And lots of it!) I was especially thankful that these weren’t contractions, because we were able to sneak away for a babymoon at Miraval in Arizona for a few days. It’s a truly special place and I can’t recommend it enough for both couples’ and girls’ trips! My husband and brother-in-law were in heaven mountain biking through the desert, while my sister-in-law and I laid by the pool and read. (Pro tip: Their Cyber Monday deal cannot be beat!)

As we settle in for the home stretch, we’re enjoying the final days as a family of 4. Family and friends have spoiled with a few celebrations for baby girl too. Given this past year, it just feels so good to get dressed and see people! For my next (and last) pre-baby blog post, I’m excited to share everything I’m bringing to the hospital!

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